Article from Punch (Volume 25 – 1853)
Immense excitement prevails among an important class of manufacturers – those engaged in the manufacture of that atmospheric canopy, the sable expanse of which extends over London and its environs, serving the inhabitants of the whole metropolitan district as a parasol. The cause of this commotion is the Smoke Nuisance Bill – so called; against which a number of gentlemen, and others, professing the principles of Free Carbon, met last night to protest, at the Hole-and-Corner.
The chair having been taken by Mr. Sutkins, the business of the meeting commenced with uproar. Comparative silence having been obtained.
Mr. Longshaft, brewer, rose to move a resolution, that the principle of the Smoke Bill was at variance with the constitution of England. At a time when London was much more smoky than it is now, it was said that “Liberty is like the air we breathe”. Could any atmosphere be more salubrious than that air? Smoke possessed curative properties, especially in reference to hams; and the very essence of smoke was applied for the cure of kippered salmon. He had sent some bottles of smoke from his own brew-house to a celebrated German chemist, who had written him a certificate in the form of a letter, to the effect that he had analyzed the smoke, and found it to consist principally of curium, which possessed antiseptic properties; sulphurous and carbonic acid gases: the former of which acted as a tonic, whilst the latter constituted the enlivening element of bottled ale and stout, ginger beer and soda water. The philosopher had accompanied this statement by a declaration that he, for his part, liked the smoke as a perfume, and would be glad to be supplied with a few more bottles of it for his personal use. Hitherto this beautiful smoke had been allowed to waste its sweetness on the London air, which was now threatened with the deprivation of that singular advantage. The loss cf the smoke would not affect him individually much, as he lived some distance out of town; and could only indulge in a whiff now and then, when he went to his place of business. He regarded the attack upon their chimneys as the commencement of an invasion of their hearths; and exhorted all who meant to defend the latter to rally round the former. (Great applause.)
Mr. Funnell, Captain of a Thames steamer, seconded the resolution. In his situation he had good opportunities of hearing the expression of public opinion about the Smoke Bill. People said if Parliament objected to volumes of smoke, why did they publish so many Blue Books? If they wanted to prevent chimneys from puffing they shouldn’t have took off the Advertisement duty. What was the use of emancipating Blacks abroad if they wasn’t to enjoy freedom at home? That was what the Public had to say about the matter. For his part he looked on the separation of fire and smoke as an unnatural divorce. Consume his own smoke! Why they might as well ask him to consume his own wife. Fire without smoke—by-and-bye, he supposed, it would be bread without butter. What? He expected the next thing would be your scientific legislators would bring in a bill for dividing thunder and lightning. He called this here Smoke Bill the Repeal of the Union. A little smoke on the river was wholesome. A stream that had such a lot of sewers flowing into it required fumigation. He had heard passengers returning from Kew Gardens talk about plants there that lived upon air. In course, the more substance there was in the air the more nutritious it must be both for vegetable and animal life. Legislation was going too fast. Ease her! stop her! take a turn astarn! As to this tyrannical and arbitrary Bill of Lord Palmerston’s for the consumption of smoke, he should give it every opposition: and he hoped through their united efforts it would be brought to end in that very identical object it was directed agin. (Much cheering.)
Mr. Cowl had the honour to belong to a branch of the medical profession. His practice was the cure of smoky chimneys. He protested against a measure which would deprive him of his patients; and if the Smoke Act was enforced he hoped at least he should receive compensation.
Mr. Gentlet was a producer of smoke. He supposed his interests were affected by this measure, which required the producer to be also the consumer, but did they call that political economy P To be sure he was not the proprietor of a chimney; but he possessed a nose: which came to the same thing. The very occupation he pursued was that of smoking. It was the employment of his life. It might not be a very useful branch of industry: but it was an ornamental one. They knew by the smoke that so gracefully curled from the end of his weed that a Pickwick was near. They knew that a gent of fashionable exterior and elegant manners was nigh likewise. If he was obliged to consume his own smoke, how could he continue to diffuse fragrance in society? He identified himself with the party of smokers; as he was a smoking party himself. If smoke was such a nuisance, why did they make so much the other day at the review at Spithead? Let them put that question in their pipe—and, he would add, smoke it. Talking of pipes, he would tell Palmerston that his idea of a chimney consuming its own smoke was a mere sham.
[The speaker resumed his seal amid great laughter, principally from himself, and the meeting terminated as it began, with clamour.
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